Skip to content

The Second Sex revisited

Celebrating Simone de Beauvoir’s 100th at the Festival international de la littérature

  • by

“I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom,” said Simone de Beauvoir, whose life’s work will be honoured at the Festival internationale de la litterature this weekend.

The festival, an annual celebration of francophone literature, is celebrating its 14th anniversary. The events begin tomorrow and continue until Saturday, September 27, with a series of readings, screenings, discussions, and performances at venues around Montreal.

The festival was founded by UNEQ, a union of Quebecois writers seeking to fill a void of francophone literature in Montreal. It has since become independent of UNEQ, but it continues to bring new talent to the forefront of francophone culture and pay tribute to the legends of French literature. Over the short life of the festival, more than 2,500 writers, dancers, musicians, comedians, visual artists, and storytellers have participated in a variety of events.

One of the special features this year is a series of events paying homage to de Beauvoir, in celebration of the writer’s 100th birthday. De Beauvoir personified the romantic ideal of Paris as the centre of intellectual conversation from the 1940s until her death in 1986.

The “pure transparent freedom” that she wanted for every human life was physical as well as mental. De Beauvoir wrote memoirs intended to fuel the feminist movement, with her book Deuxieme Sexe (The Second Sex). She believed in freedom in every area of her life, including freedom from normal social conventions that she thought kept many women from living the lives that they wanted.

The festival begins showcasing the work of de Beauvoir this Saturday with Pourquoi je suis feministe, a screening of an interview with de Beauvoir, speaking of the future of feminism. Following this event is Premier plan: Simone de Beauvoir, featuring footage of an interview with de Beauvoir about her controversial work The Second Sex. The evening concludes with Simone de Beauvoir, femme actuelle, a documentary film by Dominique Gros that investigates the life of de Beauvoir. Finally, on Sunday there will be a Table Ronde, on de Beauvoir’s influence in Quebec today and in the lives of women in the modern world. All of these free events are held at the Grande Bibliothèque.

Other notable events taking place over the course of the week pay tribute to Yves Therault and Aime Cesaire. The festival also offers several “midis littéraires,” lunches accompanied by readings and discussions of francophone literature.

For more information on these and other events that are part of the Festival internationale de la littérature francophone, visit